Sunday, July 12, 2020

Enough with the “New Normal”—Let’s Get Down to Business

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Unprecedented. Uncertain. Challenging. Novel. Unique. New normal. I’m so tired of hearing these words over and over again. From a business standpoint, these are not unparalleled times. Totally unexpected? Unquestionably. Completely dreadful? You bet. But this is not unique in business.

Navigating today’s business environment isn’t easy—but it’s not the first time we’ve been forced to rethink our strategies for success. Change, expected or unexpected, has put many companies out of business and made others come out stronger. Think about Kodak, Atari, Blockbuster, Netscape, and Nokia—all beloved brands with huge success stories until they doubled down on outdated business practices. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” doesn’t allow companies to reinvent themselves to meet the market where it is, or where it’s going.

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, it’s time to think critically about how to maintain operations and gain momentum. “New normal” is an oxymoron that refers to a new situation that creates a long-term or permanent impact on your day-to-day routine. Businesses are constantly adjusting to new market demands, new technologies, and new best practices—that is our normal! It’s our job to invest energy and effort into inventing the future for what our businesses can offer in a different world. But to do that, you’ve got to get off the hamster wheel and kick off these three critical steps:

1. Evaluate your business’s future revenue curve recovery.

What’s the exact shape of your hockey stick? Review the data you have from past changes and how the market responded, then try to visualize the graph of your future revenue growth recovery. Do you anticipate skyrocketing to rapid growth (making a “V” shape) or a slower curve (making a “U” shape) taking its time to move north? Maybe it’s a perfect hockey stick, with a strong uptick in a couple of quarters. If it looks flat, that’s a red alert to change how you’ve responded to slowdowns in the past and your opportunity to reinvent that trajectory.

2. Review and future-proof your value prop.

Ensuring your value proposition is relevant to the business environment and consumer market is paramount to success. It must reflect and even exceed your customers’ changing needs and desires. Think about Blockbuster: it’s been a decade since it filed for bankruptcy. It didn’t simply succumb to technological disruption—it was too busy keeping the hamster wheel moving while losing sight of its customer and raking up loads of debt. Make sure your brand is poised to bring value to anticipated needs and demands, not just the ones your customers have today.

3. Adjust your offerings with a strong pivot strategy.

Now that you’ve anticipated your future revenue curve and updated your value prop, it’s time to pivot. I’ve written about pivoting strategies recently, and they’re not just for marketing and business development professionals. First of all, pivoting doesn’t always mean making one move. You may need to make a near-term pivot and create a long-term pivot strategy.

Put all scenarios and options on the table—but make sure that even though you’re changing your focus, the pivot still makes sense within your brand and core values. It could be a major shift over time, or an immediate tactical swing to generate near-term growth.

In the past 90 days, my team launched a pivot strategy centered on market opportunities for top line achievable in the near term. The “pivoted” efforts took priority, and we shifted resources to them immediately. Making a rapid response to market conditions and opportunities has been special because it required close collaboration with other teams across the business, using big relationships as a catalyst for growth. We’ve generated opportunities in the pipeline and cash for the business in the past 60 days because … (wait for it) … pivots work!

The world may look different now, but business is the same as it ever was—keeping your offering relevant to an evolving market. How have you pivoted over the past few months? I’d love to hear your stories and strategies in the comments.

Nicole Braley
Nicole joined Wood Mackenzie in 2018 as the VP Marketing, Americas. She is an experienced business leader who drives critical segmented market and business strategies for growth and "sees around corners." She’s held previous roles with Vision Source, a division of Essilor (EI.PA), and Weatherford (NYSE:WFT). In 2012, Nicole won ION’s CEO Leadership Award. In 2015, she was elected Board Member of MLS Alumni Board at Rice University and in 2017, she was accepted to Forbes Communications Council. In addition to being well-rounded and business savvy, Nicole enjoys public speaking.

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